FORT HOOD, Texas – Fort Hood and the U.S. Army are making some “immediate” changes to how they report missing soldiers as a result of the independent review of the post’s command climate and culture.
“This is not a one and done. This is a sustained effort to affect permanent change and foster trust and cohesion across our force,” said Lt. General Robert “Pat” White, the Commanding General of III Corps.
General White spoke to the drastic changes heading to Fort Hood on Tuesday.
The new missing soldier policy puts measures in place to add an immediate response in an effort to locate a soldier and ensure he or she is safe.
Within three hours of a soldier going missing, unit commanders are instructed to report the soldier’s status to local Army law enforcement officials. Once this three-hour window closes, authorities must then communicate the “absent-unknown” status to the soldier’s family no later than eight hours after they are considered missing.
The mother of Gregory Wedel-Morales, a soldier from Fort Hood whose remains were found nearly a year after he went missing, says these changes could have have made a world of difference in his case.
“Why did it take so many soldiers dying for him to tell somebody to put this stuff in place?,” Kim Wedel asked.
The Army deemed Wedel-Morales A.W.O.L. for months before finding out he was actually murdered off post.
According to the new policy, the Army will only deem a soldier “absent without leave” if evidence shows the soldier’s absence is voluntary within the first 48 hours of the soldier’s status change.
Army leaders say if there is insufficient evidence to conclude the absence is voluntary, soldiers will be reported as “missing.”
“I’m glad they’re making that change. Hopefully it will keep other families from having to go through what so many others have,” said Wedel.